Worldwide protests as Israel cuts fuel supplies to Gaza

 Human rights groups around the world are voicing their concerns after Israel began to cut off vital fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The move was made in retaliation for the almost daily rocket fire on border towns and villages in Israel from Gaza. But critics describe the fuel as 'collective punishment' which could place many innocent lives in danger. Israel has also begun to limit shipments of food and medicine to Gaza. Riyad Malki, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, said the cut was a "catastrophic" decision. "This will harm the Palestinian people and not Hamas," he said. "Hamas can get all the fuel it needs, but the Palestinian people will pay for it." Several Israeli human rights groups have appealed to the Supreme Court to rule that the sanctions violate international law. Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for the B'tselem watchdog group, said: "Cutting fuel supplies into Gaza will only exacerbate the humanitarian problems that already exist. Israel still exercises enormous control over Gaza. Therefore, it has obligations under international law to allow the normal running of everyday life." B'tselem points out that vital services, such as a neonatal intensive care unit in Gaza, will be jeopardised if power supplies are cut. In a statement read out by a spokesperson yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Palestinian militants to end indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel, which he condemned. But he also stated his belief that the "punitive measures taken by Israel... harm the well-being of the entire population of the Gaza Strip". The cuts would, he said, "deepen the humanitarian distress" of Gaza's 1.4m residents. Gaza relies on Israel for almost all its fuel and petrol, and more than half of its electricity. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU commissioner for external relations, said on a visit to Jerusalem she was "very concerned" about the Israeli move though she understood Israel's "distress" over rocket attacks. "I think collective punishment is never a solution," she said. Source: UNHCR/BTSELEM

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